THE PRODUCER – Only the best for (and from) La Quercia

La Quercia is a family business with humble beginnings in the Eckhouse home back in 2000. It opened its current facility in Norwalk in 2005.

La Quercia is a family business with humble beginnings in the Eckhouse home back in 2000. It opened its current facility in Norwalk in 2005.

By Eleni Upah

In the business of food, when your product only contains two ingredients, quality is king. The owners of La Quercia, a producer of handcrafted cured meats, knew that from the beginning and have devoted their lives to creating only the highest-quality products.

Herb and Kathy Eckhouse spent three-and-a-half years living in Italy, where, as Herb puts it, they “ate a lot of really great food.” At the point they decided to start selling prosciutto in Iowa, there were four other companies selling it in the U.S., and Herb says none of them really matched the quality of the prosciutto made in Europe. Starting on a much smaller scale, La Quercia couldn’t compete with the lowest prices on the market — but they could compete with the quality.

“Italian cuisine is very ingredient-focused,” says Herb. “So it’s really: Get the best-quality ingredients and allow them to express their quality. So that’s what we do: We buy really high-quality meat, and we try to allow it to express its quality.”

La Quercia uses only specialty pork and offers six types: organic, Americano, Berkshire, Tamworth, Berkshire Cross and Acorn Edition. The Acorn Edition comes from hogs that are fed an acorn diet, and it gives the meat a different texture and flavor.

“The flavor is very, very rich, and the fat is very clean,” explains Herb. “The texture is really creamy, so I actually like to eat the acorn edition sliced a little bit more thickly in small pieces because I want (the flavor) to linger in my mouth.”

Acorn-fed pigs are known to create high-quality prosciutto, which was the mission behind La Quercia from the very beginning. The company is now working on its ninth year of the Acorn Edition, which includes aging the hams for two to three years. That kind of timing doesn’t leave much room for error.

“We don’t have much opportunity to recover if we make a mistake,” says Herb. “So we’re building a program. It’s being really well received, and we’re excited about the future.”

La Quercia recently celebrated 10 years at its current Norwalk facility. It sells products in every state and ships to Canada. You can find La Quercia prosciutto at Hy-Vee, Whole Foods, the Cheese Shop, Gateway Market and many restaurants in the metro. RELISH

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Categories: The Producer

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